On Tuesday, May 17, 2022, on a bright sunny day in the small town of Uvalde, Texas, no one expected an armed attack upon the Robb Elementary School by a deeply disturbed young man that left nineteen students, as young as nine years old, and two teachers dead.
According to one survivor of the attack, the shooter, Salvador Ramos, (18) stated, “It’s time to die” before he started firing indiscriminately into the classrooms. Ramos was shot and killed on-site by a responding Border Patrol Agent. The two teachers who were murdered by Ramos were reported to have died while attempting to save their students.
As sadly expected, this heinous act has taken on political rhetoric that does not proactively address how to identify evil before innocent people die. Since the shooting, the post-criminal investigation has revealed quite a few chilling details about the shooter. In my opinion, details that should’ve been picked up by family and/or Law Enforcement prior to the carnage Ramos unleashed.
There are some people I’ve spoken to who are of the belief that Salvador Ramos’ name be erased from memory. That his name should not be remembered for fear that his murderous act would be celebrated by like-minded individuals, therefore inspiring them to copycat his depraved actions. Although I understand that thinking, I humbly disagree. Evil thrives in ignorance, and if we don’t start paying attention to the warning signs, history will inevitably repeat itself.
Although Texas State Police have stated that Salvador Ramos had no criminal record and no history of mental illness treatment, those who knew him saw increasing signs of isolation, outbursts, and aggression. One post-criminal interview of a former classmate, Crystal Foutz, was telling.
“He always seemed to take his anger out on the most innocent person in the room. He would get angry at people thinking he wasn’t OK. He was just always super odd.”
Neighbors and classmates have also reportedly stated that just recently Ramos got into violent fights with his mother repeatedly. There were also times when the Police were called in for domestic disturbance calls to the home.
Some neighbors have also stated that Ramos’ rapid descent into madness may have started many years ago as a child when he was targeted by bullies. Neighbors and former classmates of Ramos have also reportedly stated to Police Investigators that Ramos was extremely angry that he could not graduate High School.
Besides personal observation by friends and neighbors, Ramos’ social media was also extremely informative.
“Most chilling was a series of messages on the social platform Yubo just before Tuesday’s shooting that may have come too late to prevent the violence. Investigators are examining texts they believe Ramos sent to a 15-year-old German girl, including one minutes before the massacre warning that he was about “to shoot up an elementary school,” according to a law enforcement official not authorized to discuss the matter who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Instagram photos posted under his moniker “TheBiggestOpp” showed him in front of a mirror taking a selfie and one of a gun magazine in his lap.
Earlier this month, Ramos tagged a photo of two long guns to an Instagram user with more than 10,000 followers and asked her to share the picture.”
Sadly, this type of behavior is overlooked until it is too late. Proactively identifying these key factors of Ramos’ psychological and spiritual descent and taking the steps to treat him prior to his murderous outburst would’ve been ideal. Unfortunately, hindsight is always 20/20. It’s always easier to look back on a tragedy to find a viable solution than to seek it out in real-time. However, parents, spouses, school personnel, and Law Enforcement need to think outside the box.
Several years ago, I wrote an article for the now-defunct “Criminal Justice Journal” in regards to a very disturbed middle-aged man who attempted to murder his wife and children by setting his home on fire. Thankfully, his wife and children were able to escape the fire with little or no injuries, but this case has haunted me on a professional and deeply personal level.
In my research for that article, I came across an excellent book in my library called Forensic Medicine: Fundamentals and Perspectives by Dr’s. Reinhard Dettmeyer, Marcel A. Verhof and Reinhard Schütz.
They cite several criminal cases that involved a “murderous rampage” and came up with a rough profile of the emotional and psychological state of a perpetrator who has committed this type of crime. As follows:
“Perpetrators often show a lack of flexibility in the spectrum of their responses and actions, often combined with feelings of inferiority and a low frustration tolerance threshold. Case histories often reveal affect-laden constellations involving slights to and humiliation of the future perpetrator. Finally, a sudden and unexpected explosive unloading takes place.”
As I re-read this passage now, it appears that Ramos fits in perfectly to the generic profile described above. He’s been cited as having a personal history involving varying levels of an inferiority complex coupled with an overinflated fear of public humiliation, which appeared to have a build-up first before he exploded in murderous violence.
As true as it was when I first wrote about the attempted murder-by-arson case, I needed to understand this phenomenon not just from an intellectual standpoint, but from a religious point of view as well.
I had the enormous pleasure of meeting Cantor Mindy Ross-Knaster at a Bar Mitzvah that she officiated nine years ago. She is currently an Independent Cantor and Bar/Bat Mitzvah Officiator for Temple Hillel in Woodmere, New York. I was very thankful that I was allowed an interview regarding explosive murderous rampage crimes. Cantor Ross-Knaster pulled no punches. She stated quite strongly that an act of violence against another and/or themselves is absolutely unforgivable and goes against everything that the Torah and Talmud teach. The answer I got from Cantor Ross-Knaster is that it is a matter of morality and character. Not living up to Covenant Law, not honoring the moral teachings of the Torah, and not having a belief in G-d, can all lead to narcissistic, bullying, and destructive behavior.
In September of 2015, I had the great pleasure to meet Father Stephen Donnelley formerly stationed at the Church of Saint Patrick in Huntington, New York. He is a very wise and compassionate man, and I also wanted to get his insight into the phenomena of mass murder.
Father Donnelley stated that he has seen many cases of severe depression in members of his Parish that he has counseled, and he believed that, in those cases, there was a complete separation from G-d. Having a disenfranchisement with a Supreme Being, not being appreciative of Life, and not being spiritually rooted can all lead to destructive behavior. Father Donnelley stated that in these cases, psychological therapy, prayer, faith, and making decisions based upon the teachings of G-d, can lead a tortured soul out of their own darkness. No man is an island and no one is ever truly alone. Father Donnelley also stated that the loss of faith, depression, and mental illness are often time silent, and difficult to see unless that person seeks help.
As I have often pondered when we hear of mass murder, is the prevention of this type of evil possible? Hindsight only works if it leads to proactive results. In the end, it looks like it is up to the individual who exhibits a shift in personality, a loss of faith, and a failure to adhere to the Laws of Man and G-d to seek professional and spiritual help. It is also up to us, as moral human beings, who may see this decline in one of our friends or family members, to encourage them to seek help before it is too late.